Too Much Exposure To UV Light Impacts Our Eye Health, So It’s Important To Protect Your Eyes From The Sun’s Rays While Basking In Everything The Summer Has To Offer.
When it comes to sun safety, we know how important applying sunscreen is at combating harmful UVA and UVB rays, but protecting our eyes is just an important as slathering the sunscreen and grabbing a hat before heading into the sun.
At Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts (LIOC), our eye specialists support the idea that eye health goes beyond your routine eye checkup and really stress that preventative eye care begins at home. Learn more about protecting your eyes this summer in today’s blog.
Ultraviolet Light (UV) And Your Eyes
The sun emits powerful rays, that if you’re not protected, can cause damage to your body, including your eyes.
What Is UV Light?
Ultraviolet light is produced by the sun and is a major concern to us because of the health consequences they present. An increased exposure to UV rays subjects you to a greater risk of skin cancer.
Both UVA and UVB rays penetrate our atmosphere and are not well-absorbed leaving our eyes and skin at risk. The strength of the UV light depends on many factors including your geographic location, what time of day it is, and altitude. Other risk factors include being in an environment with reflective surfaces (such as the lake, ocean, sand, or snow), medications, and what kind of cover (or lack of cover) you have.
Let’s examine the different types more closely below.
UVA – You can remember UVA rays easily because this type of UV light cause premature aging, so just think of the A as standing for aging! Long-term exposure causes wrinkles and plays a role in some skin cancers.
UVB – These rays have more energy and are the cause of most sunburns and skin cancers.
How The Sun Impacts Your Eyes
Many think that the sun only affects our skin, but the truth of the matter is, it affects our eyes profoundly subjecting you to eye problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts, pingueculae, pterygia, photokeratitis, and cancer surrounding the eye.
How do these eye problems pan out? Let’s dive deeper below.
Macular Degeneration –
High UV exposure at a younger age has been significantly known to increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It’s important to note that AMD is the leading cause of blindness in adults who are over the age of 60.
Around 20% of cataract cases are related to UV damage and off these cases, they are all preventable.
Pingueculae/Pterygia (Surfer’s Eye) –
These eye conditions grow on the surface of your eye as a result of sun exposure and can cause vision issues. These are seen more commonly in people who work outdoors or spend many hours in the sun without protection.
This is essentially a sunburn to your cornea and is also known as snow blindness. It’s painful, causes a great deal of irritation, and can cause both temporary and permanent blindness.
There are more than 3,000 cases of diagnosed skin cancer around the eye and eyelid, with one-tenth of them being found on the eyelid.
The issue with the sun and UV rays is that when we’re younger we can’t foresee any health issues and don’t always take the best preventative measures to stay safe, yet the more long-term sun exposure we have, the more we face skin and eye issues.
And, you can’t turn back time, so once you have the eye damage, it won’t go away.
Keeping Your Eyes Protected
It’s important to realize that practicing sun safety for your eyes is a year-round thing — yes, we’re outside more in the summer, but you can easily damage your eyes in the winter as well. Here’s a couple of ways you can keep your eyes protected from the sun.
Wear a hat – Hat’s are great for providing cover to both your eyes and the delicate skin on your face and scalp. The bigger the brim, the better the protection.
Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen – This is always important, but ensure you cover the area surrounding your eye and eyelid when going into the sun.
It’s also important to never directly stare into the sun or let a cloudy day fool you — the UV rays can still penetrate.
Eye health matters, especially in the summer when we’re outdoors enjoying all the activities the season offers!